Police are trying to identify suspects who hijacked police vehicles and helped two detained anti-government protesters escape during the protests in Bangkok on Saturday evening.
Royal Thai Police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Yingyos Thepjamnong said the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) hopes to identify the We Volunteer (WeVo) guards and anti-government protesters under the Restart Democracy (ReDem) banner who were involved in the incident.
On Saturday, a crowd of WeVo guards and protesters blocked a convoy of police vehicles taking detained protesters from the protest site in front of Major Cineplex Ratchayothin. They managed to force open the lock on the police vans and free some protesters, including one of WeVo’s leaders, Piyarat “Toto” Chonthep.
Mr Chonthep was arrested along with several WeVo guards and ReDem protesters near the Lat Phrao intersection. Several video clips circulating online showed protesters blocking the path of the police convoy and bashing the vehicles.
Pol Maj Gen Thepjamnong said seven police were injured in the incident, six of whom were admitted to hospital. Nine police vehicles were wrecked, he said.
The spokesman said 27 people who claimed to have escaped police custody on Saturday have turned themselves in to Phahon Yothin police, where they are being questioned.
MPB chief Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra said Mr Chonthep and his group were arrested because police feared they would instigate violence and decided to resort to pre-emptive tactics by arresting the guards first.
The commissioner said police seized 15 slingshots, 50 nut screws, 300 marbles, 30 smoke bombs and 13 crash helmets from the guards.
He said the police were authorised to arrest without a warrant if an offence is blatantly committed.
In the end, 18 people were charged in connection with the cineplex protest. The charges include breaching the emergency decree and illegally assembly for criminal acts.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights on Facebook said the protesters, including Mr Chonthep, denied the charges.
Meanwhile, at the Democracy Monument yesterday, Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattarasaksa spoke to the crowds after completing a 247.5 km anti-government march from Nakhon Ratchasima that began on 16th February.
He vowed to “sit tight” even if the police tried to disperse the protest. Police, however, said they would only collect evidence to seek prosecution.